After yet another bloody weekend, it’s time to speak frankly about who’s killing Christians and why.
by Mollie Hemingway
…..Before we can have an actual conversation about the persecution of Christians and others at the hands of Muslims, we have to lay some groundwork. Here are some quick thoughts for journalists, politicians and the Christian Church.
Journalists: Many journalists act as if they can’t report that acts of violence appear to have some kind of Muslim faith behind them because it might inflame anti-Muslim feelings. This reportorial approach is paired with an odd desire to hype any act of “violence” by Christians. This is why the American media will highlight a tiny Florida church burning some Quran while not mentioning that, say, the entire Kingdom of Saudia Arabia confiscates all Bibles at customs and destroys them.
When and where violence occurs involving Muslims and Christians, as it did in Pakistan, Kenya, Syria and Egypt, it is framed as a political conflict, with no examination of the religious details. Not only is this grievously unfair to the Christians who continue to be slaughtered while the rest of the world is busy watching Dancing With The Stars, it’s also a disservice to Islam, whose followers are not monolithic in their persecution of non-Muslims. Many Muslims themselves are persecuted in the name of Muslim violence. To take the most recent example, at least 96 people in Iraq were killed this past weekend when a string of bombs detonated in short order, targeting Shiite funeral-goers. Muslims who defend Christians are a bold lot. Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor, was a vocal opponent of anti-blasphemy laws that target Christians and other religious minorities. For this, he was assassinated in 2011 by his security guard.
It’s not journalists’ job to protect the public from these facts. And if it were, it would be impossible. While the media may think they’ve done a good job of obscuring part of this reality, most people have figured out that a lot of Muslims do support violence as a part of the way of Islam. And they’ve figured out as well that a lot of Muslims don’t. Both groups can appeal to long traditions within Islam for their defense.
It is the job of journalists to convey information about local and world events in all their complexity and nuance. While most media outlets privilege politics over other cultural factors, journalists really need to be cognizant about how ignorance of the role of religion harms news gathering. They should make sure their sources aren’t just politicians. They should make sure their understanding of religion is respectful of the importance it plays in most people’s lives.
Politicians: Politicians need to stop giving speeches that claim to know the heart of Muslims or the true meaning of Islam. It’s offensive and it’s not helping. And if politicians are going to give scolding speeches about religious beliefs, here’s a thought: Less of condemnation of “those who slander the prophet of Islam” and more condemnation of “those who slaughter Pakistani Christians coming out of worship.” Without even getting into whether there is a foreign policy role to play in the persecution of Christians, the American bully pulpit and diplomacy corps could stand to speak more clearly about religious violence. The current model of apologizing for American freedoms is indefensible.
The Christian Church: Whether journalists stop downplaying the facts of the persecution of Christians, Christians need to stay informed. Even if American politicians respond to Islamist violence by apologizing for the freedom of speech and of religion, the church must remain vigilant. And many are. The media didn’t quite pick up on the significance of the event, but Pope Benedict XVI announced the canonization of the Martyrs of Otranto in the same consistory in which he announced his intention to resign the papacy. In May, Pope Francis canonized the 800 Christians, who were beheaded for their faith after Turkish Muslims invaded their city in 1480. In his words, “They had refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ.” Most church bodies have prayer guides to help members pray for the persecuted church. And many religious human rights groups work hard to get word out about persecution worldwide. Christians and others interested in stopping religious persecution should ask media outlets to cover news such as the forced conversions, blasphemy persecutions and bombings of Christians.
However much we may wish Muslim violence against Christians would resolve itself or go away, being in denial serves no purpose. To combat the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, we must first acknowledge its existence. And we need to be clear about exactly who is perpetrating violence against Christians and what is motivating them.